Born: October 22, 1944 in Palm Springs, CA
Died: March 8, 2012 in Fort Worth, TX
Genre: Pop/Rock, Blues
Styles: Blues-Rock, Contemporary Blues, Garage Rock, Psychedelic/Garage
The Tyler, TX-raised Bugs Henderson took his cues from the wealth of great roadhouse blues and blues-rock guitarists that were around Dallas, including Freddie King, Johnny Winter, and literally dozens of others on the Texas music scene of the '60s. Henderson has cited James Burton, Ricky Nelson's guitarist, as a major influence.
Henderson got his first guitar, a Montgomery Ward Airline, one year at Christmas when he was just six years old. Like Louisianan Sonny Landreth, also an exquisite player, Henderson began working in a record store in his teens. As a teenager, he would sneak out of the house to see live shows at local clubs, and he formed his first band, the Sensors, at 16. He later joined a friend, Ronnie Weiss, in a band called Mouse & the Traps, and they charted their first regional radio hit, "Public Execution" in 1966. Although he played in a procession of rock bands and studio sessions for country and rock musicians, by the early '70s Henderson realized the only music he was truly passionate about was blues. His mentor and friend, the legendary Freddie King, advised him to form his own band and follow his heart. By 1978, Henderson released his first record, At Last, for Texas-based Armadillo Records. The album would be the first of more than 14 records in the ensuing three decades. By the late '90s, Henderson was recording for the Portland, OR-based Burnside Records. His albums for that label include 1998's Have Blues...Must Rock, and a later release, Backbop. Other releases include Electric Snow, Stormy Love, Adventures of the Shuffle Kings, and Gitarbazndrumz.
Henderson lives in Garland, TX with his four children and has a simple, overriding philosophy of life: family first, music second, career third. As he explained in the biography accompanying one of his Burnside Records releases, "I couldn't have the life I have now and be a major star. Couldn't go to my kids' ball games. I wouldn't give that up for anything." For the limited touring he does do each year, Henderson takes his family on the road with him: son Buddy plays drums with his father, son Cody works as a sound tech for the band, and daughter Rose sells merchandise. Despite his limited touring and the limited distribution of his recordings over the years with smaller labels like Burnside, Henderson and his varying bands have shared stages with guitar icons including Ted Nugent, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. One of Henderson's guitars hangs proudly in the Hard Rock Cafe' in Dallas, alongside instruments donated by Chet Atkins and Lee Ritenour.
- Richard Skelly (All Music Guide)
Bugs Henderson was born in Palm Springs, California in 1944 and grew up in Tyler, Texas. Bugs had a burning desire to pick up the 6 string at an early age. At the age of 6 he discovered his first love.
Beginning in the early 1960's he began working in a record store in Tyler. As a teen he would sneak out of the house against his fathers wishes just to catch live gigs in the local joints. Beginning his own band, the Senors, at age 16 he soon joined his friend, Ronnie Weiss, in a band called Mouse and the Traps. Mouse and the traps charted its first song, "Public Execution" in 1966. This is where he earned his name "Bugs" over shadowing his real name Buddy.
By the end of the decade, Bugs had made the transition from fan to musician. As a house guitarist at the Robin Hood Studios, he played demo sessions behind numerous performers from country to rock.
Bugs' signature sound was beginning to define itself during the 1970s with the blues. Quoting Bugs, "Blues was all that mattered to me; no other music was worth a damn." During this time, Bugs moved from Tyler to Dallas in order to join the scene of a bar called The Cellar. "It's really hard to explain that place," Henderson remembers. "It was this big, black room. It had a red light that came on when the cops were coming in and another light for fights. The waitresses wore just bras and panties, but they ran three or four bands in a night and everybody played original music. We usually didn't leave until four in the morning, and there was no other place like it around. It was the best thing that happened to my music. I learned a lot."
Henderson went from road crew to playing on stage opening for artist such as the Allman Brothers, B.B King, and Leon Russell. Henderson described it as "a big change."
Bugs and his love for blues got tired of the wide-open riff-oriented rock, and friend Freddie King began pushing for Henderson to start his own band. Bugs the assembled his first record "At Last" released on succession of 11 albums spanning over four decades.
Success and it's spoils began wreaking havoc on Bugs' life in the late 1970s. Bugs took time to take a good hard look at where his life was and where it was going. "Most of the people I ran with are dead, in jail, or just look terrible. With God's help and good friends, I came out of it, "Henderson says.
Henderson now lives in Garland, Texas, at age 54. A father of four, and celebrating his 28th wedding anniversary with his wife Duchess, who claims Henderson is a "better father than guitarist." The order of importance in his life is simple: Family, Music, Career. Bugs explains, "I couldn't have the life I have now and be a major star. Couldn't go to my kids' ball games. I wouldn't give up that for anything." Proving his point, drums in the Shuffle Kings and his 16 year old son, Cody works as a tech for the band.
His mixture of searing blues, jazz ability, swing, funk, and just about everything else that can be played on six strings; Bugs has the ability to give his audience a sense of true musical art, applying enormous control over his tone and coloration.
Bugs has played with guitar icons such as B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Ted Nugent, James Barton, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. To this day, Bugs' guitar hangs in Hard Rock Cafe' in Dallas along side instruments donated by Lee Ritenouer and Chet Atkins.